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Defining Organizational Sustainability?

Details on how to identify and work with sustainable development were published in “Our Common Future” in 1987. This publication is also referred to as the Brundtland Report. Sustainable development is defined as, “development that meets the economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Please remember that sustainable development is a practice that is largely ignored within a typical “sustainability” program. This concept of sustainable development was presented and debated at the first Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development”) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Also presented at the Earth Summit was the concept of global sustainability. This concept is defined as “the state of the global system, including environmental, social, and economic aspects, in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ”Global sustainability will be practiced as soon as the world successfully achieves widespread sustainable development. People have misunderstood the concept of global sustainability as being primarily an environmental concept including issues such as climate change, noni-sustainable resource use or depletion, and loss of fertile soil and biodiversity. However global sustainability also includes social and economic issues, such as social structures, standards of living, peace and justice, income distribution, production, distribution and use of resources, products and services, and employment Global sustainability relates to the interaction with, and relationship between, these issues.

A group of about 50 CEOs of major companies attended the meeting. There was no discussion of sustainability at the organization level – corporations, their operating facilities, and the supply chains. They coined the term, “ecoefficiency”. Several books were published by the leaders of this group. But nothing came of this concept. Organizations began to us address the concept of social responsibility. This focused on the “responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions, and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behavior. They referred to these organization programs as CSR, Corporate Citizenship, and many other terms.

Organizational sustainability was not formally defined until 2012 by the author*: “From the perspective of an organization, sustainability is the capability of an organization to transparently manage its responsibilities for environmental stewardship, social well-being, and economic shared value, over the long term, while engaging with its stakeholders. To reinforce these responsibilities and make them more specific to daily activities, an organization creates a “code of conduct” that outlines expectations for how responsibility will be embedded into what employees do every day. In this way, this standard can work for any corporation, its operating facilities, and its supply chain.

Dr. Bob Pojasek

Sustainability Legend | ESG Reporting & Disclosures | Uncertainty Risk | Pollution Prevention Expert | Process Improvement | Organizational Sustainability Reporting | Sustainable Procurement Professor

Chairman, Education and Research Executive Board (EREB)

VCARE Academy Inc.

Managing Director

Center for Corporate Performance & Sustainability


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